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Winter snow in Amsterdam

01/16/2013

Amsterdam felt quite strange upon my return from the other two Benelux countries.  The crowds and buildings seemed quite surreal after the relative quiet of Belgium, and the city seemed vaguely familiar yet somehow different.  It was good to be “home” again, but perhaps my endlessly shifting concept of home is what makes the familiar seem strange.  Perhaps Heraclitus was right in saying that  “a man can’t step in the same river twice.”

The mild weather proved enjoyable though, and I enjoyed rambling the city streets in search of interesting shops and quirky coffee shops.  It was never to last, though, and predictions of snow in Britain were sure to bring Baltic weather to the Continent as well.  However yesterday I awoke to a gloriously sunny, but chilly day, and went out to take some photographs.  The breeze certainly cut to the bone, and it made me sure that the depressed sales of high street stores must owe much to the possibility of shopping in the comfort of your own home.

Perhaps the festive fatigue also had something to do with it.  Certainly there had been crowds during the festive season, and now everyone wants to relax at home and pay off their credit card bills.  An ambition for a long walk with friends from my dorm was somewhat thwarted by the cold, and we turned back half an hour later to enjoy a coffee and apple tart.    Any hopes for New Year dieting were thus thwarted by miserable weather, and the tempting smells wafting from a coffee shop.

Snow was falling by early evening, and this scotched another New Years resolution, namely to go to gym more often,.  The temptation to stay indoors got the better of me, and this was not helped by awakening to a snow covered Amsterdam this morning.  It looks absolutely wonderful, like something out of Disney, but even the desire to go out and take photographs was a struggle.  I have a morbid fear of slipping on icy roads, and owe this phobia, I believe, to having slipped and broken a leg as a child.

It is funny how a memory can stay with you for a lifetime, even when daily life seems like a maelstrom.  The exact moment is frozen in my mind, on a wonderful summers day in Cape Town more than thirty years ago.  The pain seemed awful when anyone tried to move me, probably due to the broken bones shifting, and I remember the doctor looking at me, saying that he would have to put my leg in a cast.  I was there seemingly forever, with my leg in traction, waiting to go home.  The view of the bright city lights from the windows of Groote Schuur hospital has stayed with me all these years, along with memories of visits by family members.

Luckily the snow has not resulted in any serious injuries for me, the streets seem to be cleared quite quickly.  My only worry is cyclists, who seem to glide on by as easily as they do in better conditions.  Only the cars seem to move more slowly, although the smaller number of cyclists makes it easier to walk around the city.  As much as I admire this green form of transport, sometimes it can be scary to have them constantly whizzing by.  Perhaps the wrong step could always be dangerous, whether it is sunshine or snow outside.  Maybe cycling the busy city streets is easier than it looks.  An American friend did say to me; “It’s like riding a bike.”

It is amazing how memory can be stimulated in so many different ways.  A friend asked me about a musician called Rodriguez, whose name I could not remember.  However upon looking him up on Youtube I found his work not only familiar, but a reminder of my teenage years in Cape Town.  His songs were played often in nightclubs where I used to spend many a Friday and Saturday night.  Perhaps sentimental memories are a sign of getting old, but I find then enjoyable nonetheless.  Enjoy this piece of music by Rodriguez

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